On September 28, the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ celebrate the centennial of the “Stokowski Symphony of Fifteen Thousand,” likely the largest and arguably the most significant and far-reaching organ-orchestra concert of any era. The concert, at Macy’s Philadelphia flagship store, features Peter Richard Conte at the 28,750-pipe Wanamaker Organ, together with New Jersey’s Symphony in C, under maestro Stilian Kirov.
Works performed pay tribute to the landmark musical event being commemorated, with special organ-orchestra arrangements of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, his Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, his Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, Carlos Chavez’s orchestration of the Buxtehude Chaconne in E Minor, and Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra. Added educational and visitor events are planned around the concert. The concert is sponsored by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ with a special grant from the Theodore Presser Foundation. Tickets may be obtained at www.symphonyinc.org or 856/963-6683.
On March 27, 1919, an estimated fifteen thousand concertgoers thronged the Grand Court of John Wanamaker’s Philadelphia Department Store to hear the newly enlarged Wanamaker Organ, played by Charles M. Courboin, in association with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. The concert featured Courboin playing the Bach Passacaglia on the Wanamaker Organ, which Stokowski praised as having “an indescribable grandeur,” and the American premiere of what was listed as Charles-Marie Widor’s Sixth Symphony for Organ and Orchestra.
Photo caption: Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra with the Wanamaker Organ, March 27, 1919